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Archive for May, 2011

Progress Report, in which I ask for a reminder

You know how sometimes, you have this plan for the week, and then you get an idea out of the blue that has nothing to do with the plan, but seems like it just might work, so you decide to go with your gut and run with the idea rather than sticking to the plan, and it ends up being more problematic than you first thought, and then an extraordinarily busy holiday weekend devours all your remaining free time, and by Saturday, you realize that your out-of-the-blue notion isn’t going to be as simple as you’d hoped, and your plan for the week is completely shot, and all you have to say for yourself is that it seemed like a good idea at the time?

Yeah.  Me, too.

So we’ll try it again this week.  Only without the out-of-the-blue notion that had nothing to do with writing, but seemed like a good idea at the time.

Oh, and apropos of nothing in particular, if you ever hear me talking about website design, remind me that I’m pretty much HTML-illiterate.  Thanks in advance.

No updates for Write Club.

Talk atcha.

Why It’s Important to Mock Harold Camping

Looks like everyone’s favorite Prophet of Doom, Harold Camping, has revised his prediction and given us a new date for the end of the world:  October 21st.  The evangelist has just sent the Apocalypse Game into wholly unwelcome extra innings–bad news for those of you who were already sick of Rapture jokes.

There are some who have decried the merciless dogpiling on Camping and his followers, saying they are more deserving of pity than scorn.  Ferrett Steinmetz has a particularly thoughtful post on the subject, comparing the treatment of Campingites with the ostracism he suffered as a child for being different.


I’m certainly no stranger to the feelings of alienation Ferrett writes about; I empathize completely.  At the same time, though, I have to disagree with his conclusions.  It seems wrong-headed of him to equate his own experience with Camping’s.  Not all ostracisms are created equal.  Some of them are entirely justified, even necessary.  For some extreme examples, consider the way we ostracize murderers, rapists, and pedophiles.  We cast out maniacs like Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski, and we do it for the safety of society.


Nor must a behavior reach the level of criminality before it becomes worthy of shunning.  Someone who is boorish, venal, or vapid quickly finds herself on the outside looking in, and deservedly so.  Such behaviors evince gross disregard of/disrespect for the needs of others, and so should not be positively reinforced.  We impose social sanctions to discourage them.


What then, should we do with Camping and his nutty prophecies, which fly in the face of all reason and even the doctrines of his own faith?  Well, we have our own remedies for purveyors of snake oil–and again, with good reason.  "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities," Voltaire told us, and so we have Camping’s followers going far beyond mere smugness or boorishness.  We have them traipsing about the country, spreading a message that delights in the utter ruination of the world.  We have them abdicating all personal responsibility.  We have them attempting to murder their own children–all on the basis of this man’s twisted Word.


In Stephen King’s book Danse Macabre, Harlan Ellison pointed out that the Ayatollah Khomeini, by his actions, forced us all to live in a madman’s dream world.  So, for that matter, did Osama bin Laden.  To that list of miscreants, I think we can safely add Mr. Camping.  Ferrett Steinmetz’s fondness for the work of Tolkein does not begin to compare with the damage done by Camping and his drooling band of crazies.  Ferrett didn’t deserve to be mocked for his literary tastes.  Camping, however, does not get the same pass.  He and his hateful fellow travelers have forfeited any right to kind consideration.  Pity them if you will, but don’t tell me that they are entitled to it.


Harsh sentiments, I know.  One might counter that we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, that by heaping derision on these poor people, we negate any chance to win them back to the side of clearheadedness and socially acceptable behavior.  For a retort, one need only consider Camping’s latest revision of his own prediction, or the myriad bullshit rationalizations we are hearing from his True Believers in light of his failed prophecy.  Do you really think you’re going to reach these mooks?  Ask yourself this:  how many more times would Camping have to be wrong before he admits he doesn’t know what he’s talking about?  Two times?  Ten?  A hundred?  More important, how many more failures will his followers tolerate or rationalize away?  How much more harm will they inflict on themselves and others before they reject his toxic theology?  Perhaps most important of all, how much more damage are you willing to let them do?


Stop fantasizing about the day when Camping calls a press conference to say, "OK, it’s pretty clear by now that I have no gift for prophecy.  None whatsoever.  I call upon everyone who ever listened to me to . . . well, just forget the whole thing.  Sorry for the inconvenience."  That day will never come.  These people are lost causes.  You can’t reason a man out of a position he didn’t reason himself into, as the saying goes, so we must act to preserve ourselves.  If we hold rational discourse dear, if we believe that profound anti-intellectualism erodes our society, if we ever aspire to learn even a little from the past, we must enforce the boundaries that separate eccentric behavior from the actively dangerous.

Jonathan Swift and Kurt Vonnegut knew a little something about the proper function of mockery.  Granted, they did it with rather more subtelty and style than some of those currently deriding the Camping people.  Even so, if by cracking a Rapture joke or two, I can help further a noble and necessary tradition, well, I guess it’s my patriotic duty.

Progress Report, in which the gloves come off

Spent last week making notes for the rewrite of From Earth I Have Arisen.  I also repeated a technique I used for the first time on Wet Work:  I made a spreadsheet with a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the story, including a timeline, a list of characters introduced, and a summary of the events in each chapter.  This helps give me a thousand-foot view of the thing, and saves me a bit of madly flipping through the manuscript, trying to recall when this or that happened, or how much time elapsed between certain events.  A handy thing.  I’m guessing it will become a regular fixture in my ever-evolving process.

Anyway, I had a laundry list of macro-level problems to fix, and started the week with no real idea how to address most of them.  I must have jarred something loose in the ol’ noggin, though, because come the weekend, ideas started to flow.  I realized I had kind of pulled some punches with the climax.  My muse clued me in on a radical rethink of the ending, one that resolved just about every item on my laundry list.  It’s going to require a lot of new material (and here I’d been hoping to cut this thing, get it under 40K), but I’m pretty sure I’m on the right track.

Regular readers of these reports might remember how hard the ending had been for me when writing the first draft.  For many weeks, I didn’t have an ending.  I remember how relieved I’d been to figure it out.  

Turns out that the muse was just letting me off easy.  Now that we’re into the rewrite, though, she’s taken off the gloves.  What I’m saying here, I have my work cut out for me.

This could take a little longer than I’d been planning.  Shocker, I know.

No updates for Write Club.

I’m out.